Rock bottom. When we hear those words, we may visualize a person who is dirty and destitute. We may envision a person who is living on the streets without a penny to spare or a friend to call. We usually think of great loss – a person with no work, no home and no support.
When we hear rock bottom, I think it is safe to say that we correlate that with someone whom may be lying on the floor, drooling and foul smelling. They have not changed their clothes in days and are unable to mutter even one sensible word. Slurring, sloppy and careless. No willpower. Morally inept. Void of values or a sense of purpose. Weak and powerless.
Never would we picture the C.E.O. in the corner office or the nurse who is selflessly caring for patients round the clock. Never would we imagine the wife and mother who lives next door in the magnificent home, handsome husband and 3.5 beautiful children who print beautifully on the holiday card – with their Golden Retriever. Ivy League families. Blue-collar patriots with a work ethic that would wow even God, closing their eyes in the middle of the night only to wake before the rise of the sun.
When we think of rock bottom, we think of the city streets covered with homeless humans. We think of the crack addicts and the homeless shelters. We pass by them from time to time and see them floating around in their own oblivion, as if watching a movie. We are on the foggy perimeter of our own reality yet somewhat frightened by their perceived lunacy. Then we quickly shift our thoughts to ensure we do not risk imagining ourselves in their shoes.
We think of them, as them – never us.
I will never forget this night. Driving home from a dinner with friends, I stopped at a red light where I saw a young woman standing to my left on the island, holding a sign: Homeless. Anything would help. My heart stopped faster than my brakes. I can still see so clearly her bloated and red face, tinged with the gray of a lifetime smoker. The sag of her body, exhausted from holding it up and standing in the cold for who knows how many hours. The forlorn and desperate look on her face.
Our eyes locked and in that moment, I thought – that could be me. This woman staring back at me with pain, agony and a glimmer of hope in her eyes could be me. My life was fabulous on the surface. I had the solid career (from all superficial and perceived appearances), traveled the world (or a great portion of it) and radiated success.
Yet the real me, the one so few ever took the time to see, get to know and seek to understand, was miserable. I was living a life so at odds with who I was as a person. I recall vividly the night a friend and I were having cocktails and sharing some laughs when I stated: “Corporate robbed me of my soul work.” And it did.
Things aren’t always as they appear.
And rock bottom isn’t just for the homeless folk. Rock bottom is different for each person and not one experience should be discarded because they are not all the same, even if there are similarities in some stories. Rock bottom is not something that can be generalized, stereotyped or predicted. Anyone who struggles with addictive, abusive or dependent behaviors – food, diet, alcohol, recreational or prescriptive drugs, sex, love, shopping, gambling – we are all at risk.
Rock bottom can take many forms.
- Rock bottom can be no longer being present with loved ones. It can be unnecessary arguments, fights and discord. I’ve been here.
- Rock bottom can be not doing the dishes, the laundry or daily chores. It can be ignoring all of that. I’ve been here.
- Rock bottom can be struggling through the workday, not getting enough sleep at night and angry at your workload that you unconsciously neglected while having a ‘good time’. I’ve been here.
- Rock bottom can be lacking the motivation to do anything – anything at all, yet getting by. You stopped thriving and started surviving. I’ve been here.
- Rock bottom can be transitioning from coming home and having tea, to reaching for the bottle of wine – and when one bottle turns into two, that’s a sure sign. I’ve been here.
- Rock bottom can be carelessness and irresponsibility. In any and every way. I’ve been here.
- Rock bottom could be standing right in front of you – smiling, compassionate yet in the throes of a personal hell few are genuine enough to recognize.
The ‘rock’ bottom line is this – pay attention to you, your thoughts and your current state. If you find yourself veering off course and transitioning into someone who you no longer know, focus on that. More than likely there is a reason and if you take the time to explore and unveil how and why that reason has come to be, you will stand the chance of making a difference in your own life. You may be slowly slipping a little bit each day, however, if you can recognize the many subtle yet glaring red flags along the way, you may be able to pull yourself back up before you hit a drastically hard bottom.